Here is a link to the IMDb page for the awards for reference. (yes, I'm too lazy to link to every film individually. Sorry)
First, some comments on the ceremony itself. I'm a bit torn in my loyalties, because I'm a long-time fan of both Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres, and they both have done wonderful, wonderful jobs of hosting the Oscars. That said, I thought Ellen's bits were as funny or funnier than Jon's, but Jon's introductory video and opening monologue (including "gay cowboy montage") were much, much funnier. I'd be interested in seeing them host together and combine their talents but...probably not going to happen. Moving on...
I really liked the interpretive dancers. It seems some people did not. Some people are also bereft of wonder or whimsy. Not saying these are all the same people, but I do suspect that there's some crossover, yes. But I do have a sense of wonder and whimsy and I am impressed by people who have a craft and are talented at it. I'm also impressed by people who can form a silhouette of a gun with their bodies and make it appear to actually fire. Still not sure how they managed it, but it was neat.
And then there was the musical number by Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and John C. Reilly, about how comedians don't get Oscars. It was quite funny, although it made me uncomfortable when they were threatening violence on the nominees, even though I know it was done in jest. But as funny as it was, it was also true.
A noted Shakespearean scholar once told me that comedy is harder to do than drama. Well, I don't know that that's necessarily always the case, but I have done a little bit of both, and I'm here to tell you that comedy takes a tremendous amount of precision, because so much of it is in the timing, and so to get it right takes an enormous amount of time tweaking tiny, miniscule little bits so that they will be timed to provoke the most laughter. But the irony of it is, even when comedy is harder, people tend not to take it seriously, and when it comes to awards, if you have comic performances up against tragic/dramatic performances, the former tend to be passed over. For example, let's say there was an award in which a really good Hamlet was up against...let's say... a really good Bottom from Midsummer Night's Dream (and, for the purpose of this example, the nominating body has decided that Bottom is the lead role, although that is certainly open to interpretation). If you give the award to the Bottom rather than to the Hamlet, you're probably going to look kind of callous and insensitive, because Hamlet is a dark and troubled soul in terribly tragic circumstances (some of his own creation, but mostly not), and Bottom is, frankly, little more than an ass.
That said, I kind of agreed with Jack Black when he came onstage and starting singing, "What did you think?" At the risk of seeming as humorless as Sean Penn, I have to say, indeed, Will Ferrell, what did you think they were going to do? Give you an Oscar for all your lame-ass, watered-down-SNL skit movies? To be fair, however, he's been so successful at the low-brow comedy stuff that it's probably difficult for him to get people to take him seriously or to cast him in more serious roles.
There was a time when I would have added, "And rightly so." The first time I suspected that Will Ferrell might have some depth and substance and acting ability was when I saw him in the musical movie version of The Producers, which, granted, is a musical comedy whose humor aims low, so isn't that much different than the stuff he'd been doing. But, that was the first time I had seen him demonstrate the ability to change facial expressions and display a normal range of human emotions. So I'd like to see what he can do if he steps outside his comfort zone and does some different things. I haven't seen Stranger than Fiction yet, but I'm really hoping it's going to be his Truman Show, although, based on his IMDb in-production credits, that may not happen any time soon.
Anyway, good times, but I have to admit the Oscars are much more entertaining when you can fast forward through the boring parts.
And now for the awards themselves. Again, not having seen most of the nominated films, I don't have much to say. I am happy for Martin Scorsese. Yes, I suspect that it was a "pity" Oscar, but the part of me that got upset about "pity" Oscars and "panic" Oscars died last year. As it happens, I have never knowingly seen a Scorsese film, but I know he is quite a renowned and respected filmmaker, and I can take it on faith that he has earned the Oscar, if not this year then at some point in his career. Anyway, I only saw one of the films nominated for best picture, which was Little Miss Sunshine, and yes, I would have loved to see it win, but even if I had seen The Departed, I couldn't say that it's a better violent mob thriller than LMS is a irreverently heartwarming dysfunctional-family comedy (as opposed to family comedy, which is something else ENTIRELY), because I'm no judge as to what makes a good violent mob thriller. No frame of reference.
Little Miss Sunshine won Best Original Screenplay, and I'm glad for it, because if I'd had to watch Paul Haggis receive yet another Oscar I do think there's still a little part inside of me that would have died. Was also glad to see Alan Arkin win Best Supporting Actor for LMS, although I really think the nomination should have gone to Steve Carell, but Alan Arkin was good too, so good that I hated him, which is pretty good. I would have liked to see young Ms. Breslin win also, but I think Mr. Arkin has a good point when he says, "I feel enough is enough. She is a kid, she needs to have a childhood." Because I worry about child actors. I do, because so many of them have come to bad ends, (or bad middles, as the case may be), and I sometimes feel that, as an entertainment consumer (ooh, that's an ugly way to put it), I'm somewhat complicit in making them what they've become. LMS is a great movie, but there's a scene when Abigail Breslin's character, for her talent portion of the competition, does...a striptease, basically. And that made me very uncomfortable, because it seemed exploitative. And then I told myself, "Well, but that's the point; it's a comment on these stupid pageants and how they do exploit young children." And that made me feel a little better about it. I also felt better about it having talked about the movie a little bit to a friend of mine who gets really upset about what he perceives and child exploitation in show business; he loved the movie and didn't bring it up, so if he's okay with it, it's probably okay. But I do worry about her a little bit, and I do hope that she doesn't grow up to be like the Olsen twins, because that would break my heart.
Anyhoo, that brings us to Jennifer Hudson's receiving the supporting actress award for Dreamgirls. I have mixed feelings about this. In the first place, it's been said by some that Dreamgirls is overrated. That may be, it may not be; I don't care, I'm still going to see it because Dreamgirls is based on a Broadway musical. I love musicals, but I have lived all my life in South Dakota, and most South Dakotans rarely get the chance to see Broadway-caliber performances. Now that I live in Sioux Falls, I have more of a chance, but still, most South Dakotans don't (live in Sioux Falls, that is), and that is why I embrace the renaissance of the movie musical, because movie musicals like Chicago and The Producers and The Phantom of the Opera have made the Broadway-caliber musical accessible to "those of us...in podunk," and as such, I'm going to see every movie musical I get the chance to see, although in some cases I might wait for them to come out on video. And I believe I will enjoy every one, even if I don't particularly care for the show itself, so long as they embrace the spirit of the original stage show.
Now, regarding Ms. Hudson herself, she was, apparently, a contestant on "American Idol." I did not know this before because I am morally opposed to "American Idol" and try to distance myself from everything related to it. So part of me, a snobby part that I don't particularly like, wants to hold that against Ms. Hudson. But every time I'm tempted to hold someone's origins against them, I think of Tom Hanks who is, as far as I'm concerned, the greatest contemporary American (male) actor. And yet, he got his start on a sit-com with a bizarre premise and did a whole string of movies which were...I don't want to say "bad", because I have seen and enjoyed
As for Jennifer Hudson, I've not seen Dreamgirls yet, so I don't know as to her acting ability, but having seen her sing at the Oscars and elsewhere, I can say she is talented; she's got poise, stage presence, and a pretty powerful set of pipes. So if she's got the acting chops to go with it, I can't begrudge her having to go on "American Idol" to get her foot in the door and get her name out there, any more than I can begrudge Tom Hanks "Bosom Buddies" and all those fluffy movies he was in. (I no longer bear a grudge against Jim Carrey for making Dumb and Dumber, but I do bear a grudge against Dumb and Dumber for stealing an afternoon of my life that I'll never get back. Thank you, D and D; thank you so bloody much!)
I really got the vibe this year that the Academy was trying to earn back some liberal street cred in giving two awards to An Inconvenient Truth (although I have to say, that song by Melissa Etheridge just reeeeeeeeeaaaalllllly grated on my nerves). As far as I'm concerned, it's too little, too late, but I'm happy for the film anyway because people who still believe that an Academy Award necessarily denotes quality filmmaking may see it now, who might not otherwise. Which reminds me, I actually still have to see it myself.
That brings up another point though; regardless of what Leo DiCaprio said, I find it difficult to believe that the entire awards broadcast was "green." I doubt very seriously that they had fluorescent bulbs in all those lamps because everyone was lit so attractively, and fluorescent light is soul-sucking. But whatever.
All in all, the only disappointment I experienced, insofar as I experienced disappointment at all, was in Pan's Labyrinth not winning best foreign film in a foreign language. It wouldn't have been such a bad disappointment except that it picked up the first couple awards of the night and kind of built up my expectations. Now granted, that was the only film I saw in the foreign-film-in-a-foreign-language category, and the other ones sounded pretty good, and the one that won sounded pretty good, so who's to say? Also, that category is a little unfair in that the only thing the films have in common is that they are from foreign countries and in foreign languages; other than that, they can be vastly different, so I wouldn't necessarily want the job of deciding which is the best. Although, in this case, I WOULD like the job of deciding which was the best because, of all the films I have seen that were eligible for this year's Oscars (which was, admittedly, relatively few) Pan's Labyrinth was undoubtedly the best. Hands down. Not only that, but one of the best movies that I've ever seen. That being the case, I do feel it fully deserved a Best Picture nomination, although it's not surprising that it didn't get one as foreign films don't often get them. But to have it not even win the foreign film award...that does sting a little, I admit it.
On a happier note, I really want to see West Bank Story, the best live-action short winner. Because that looked really good. And the guy's acceptance speech was really good. I was happy they let him finish it.
And, in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.